Stern unveils models of new colleges

School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 unveiled his designs for Yale’s two new residential colleges on Thursday, presenting two structures that reflect a sampling of Gothic styles from across Yale’s campus.

At a ceremony held in the Memorabilia Room of Sterling Memorial Library, Stern presented models for the 13th and 14th colleges. The two colleges, which will together house over 800 students, were intended to resemble the original eight colleges designed by James Gamble Rogers 1889.

Architectural models of the two new residential colleges were on display in the Sterling Memorial Library Memorabilia Room.  The new colleges are shown in the foreground, with the rest of central campus visible in the distance.
Caroline Minkus
Architectural models of the two new residential colleges were on display in the Sterling Memorial Library Memorabilia Room. The new colleges are shown in the foreground, with the rest of central campus visible in the distance.

Stern said the new colleges, set for construction at the southwest corner of Prospect and Sachem Streets, could open their doors to students in 2015 or the year after. But that timetable depends on the University’s ability to raise or borrow funds in the midst of a recession.

“The only issue now is money,” Stern said.

The drawings and the scale model on display were largely consistent with the renderings of the colleges that were leaked on the Internet two weeks ago, when an artist commissioned by Stern’s architectural firm posted sketches of the project to his personal Web site.

The dramatic juxtaposition of low elements and high elements, as found in the two-story internal-wings and the four multi-story towers, should “announce the colleges,” Stern said. And while the initial plans lack the heavy detailing present in the existing colleges, Stern assured his audience: “There’ll be more quirkiness as we work out the design.”

Stern’s design will shy away from the Georgian styles of Timothy Dwight, Pierson and Davenport. Color renderings showed façades of warm red brick and dark colored roofing. He jokingly compared the style to that which can be found at Harvard University, but still defended the bricks, which will feature stone embellishments.

“People think Yale is so much stone. Not so,” he said.

The new colleges, whose plans were approved by the Yale Corporation in April, will feature elements of Gothic architecture from across Yale’s campus. Both will be enclosed by large courtyards, although the south college will also feature additional, smaller courtyards.

The new colleges, which are as yet unnamed, will closely resemble Silliman in size and constitution: both new colleges will house freshmen, and the master’s houses in each will be styled after the Silliman master’s house.

Stern said suites in the new colleges will be composed of “mostly singles.”

The colleges will also host the “full panoply of spaces that exist in today’s residential colleges,” Stern said, although the specific amenities to be offered, such as practice rooms and social areas, have yet to be finalized.

Stern said he hopes the new colleges will help circulate foot traffic around the Grove Street Cemetery. The colleges’ position in the Prospect-Sachem triangle would theoretically shift the center of campus closer to Science Hill.

After the presentation, audience members congregated around the scale model to share thoughts on what they had seen.

Pierson Dean Amerigo Fabbri called the plans “outstanding,” “beautiful,” and “frustrating to wait for.” Geoffrey Little, communications coordinator for the University’s library, praised Stern’s “bold and ambitious design.”

Said Daniel Harrison GRD ’86, chair of the music department: “I was skeptical of the placement of the colleges behind the cemetery, but now I’m pretty sold. A lot of people are going to be up there.”

Fundraising efforts for the new colleges, which will cost about $600 million, are ongoing. Administrators have said that they will not name the colleges themselves after a donor, but naming rights to some individual sections of the colleges — including an eight-story tower slated to dominate the profile of the northern college — are up for grabs.

The model will be in the Woolsey Rotunda on Friday through Sunday, in the Memorabilia Room on Monday through next Thursday, and back in the Woolsey Rotunda on June 5th through June 7th.


  • Davenport 50

    I think the retrograde appearance of these buildings is embarrassing! It's the architectural equivalent of Kinkade's painting. Absolutely perfect for anyone who doesn't appreciate quality building or design. It would be one thing if Stern did Yale Gothic well, but these models (and the historicizing buildings that he actually builds) have no character whatsoever. What a loss for us!

  • Anonymous

    "bold and ambitious design."
    Bold and ambitious?
    Bold and ambitious?!
    Bold and Ambitious?!?
    Lol. No, actually, it's kind of sad.

  • Y12

    Brilliant story… Unpacked it all… Dockendorf nails it again!

  • soph

    Freshman are going to be housed there? I guess that's logical, since Old Campus is filled to the brim… but really a shame.

  • Ken McKenna ('75, PhD '78)

    These models could reasonably become the basis for an absolutely beautiful complex. Of course, for such buildings the devil is truly in the historically-allusive detailing. Indeed, part of the charm of neo-gothic styling is that such buildings will profitably accept a huge range of properly conceived gothic detailing both intense and subtle … and all of it can be mixed with later concepts, as Yale's existing gothic buildings incorporate generous helpings of Art Deco and Art Nouveau.

    It is not possible for these models to reveal whether such effects would, in fact, be well chosen, conceived or executed. But there is certainly no reason to assume they would not be. Stern's prior efforts have responded to many incentives, including budgetary limits and consistency with nearby structures. Stern can do historical detailing very well in the right context and for the right client. Consider his recent work at the Harvard Business School, where budgets ran large and the charms of detailed, corporate colonial-revival-on-steroid design are understood and appreciated (such charms are both real and abundant for those open to them, even though they have their limitations, as with every style). That HBS work certainly cannot be faulted for a failure to properly conceive and execute proper historically allusive detailing and effects.

    Here's a link:

    Stern's neo-gothic project at the Taft School is also impressive. Yes, it is less rich and elegant than I believe would be optimal at Yale, but the budget was obviously far more limited than what is planned for the new colleges. Good, elegant, rich neo-gothic obviously will cost more, but Taft's more modest project is handsome, charming and well behaved. A good place to be. Here's a link to that project:

  • @ 1 & 2

    It might be a loss for advocates of contemporary architecture, but it's worth pointing out that contemporary architects have not had a great track record lately with college residence halls.

    See this interesting account of working with Holl at MIT:

    Or perhaps Yalies would like to live in something resembling the Max Palevsky Commons at the University of Chicago.

    You architecture fans seem very willing to make other people live in some architect's notion of Form.

    Yale is being careful here. It has a proven model in college system. There's no reason to tinker with that model, either architecturally or otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    The defenders of the silly piece of kitsch proposed by Stern are constantly facing us with a false dilemma: it's either copying Gothic towers or it's some uninhabitable modern monster. I have absolutely nothing against relying on the architectural tradition of Yale colleges. Yes, I think towers and courtyards are a winning model. But there is a difference between relying on a tradition, using lessons of the past, creating a productive dialog with that past, and what Stern is doing. What he is proposing is a silly replica, without anything remotely like an original, important, or simply relevant architectural thought. Architecture can and should be both pleasant and relevant. Obviously falling for the false notion that modern architecture cannot be pleasant to live in, Yale has opted for utter irrelevance, for a piece of kitsch with no architectural value whatsoever. It is a pitiful moment of cowardice.

  • Anonymous

    In my opinion this project has three major problems that do not involve style:

    (1) It may be called two colleges but it is the size of five.

    (2) If the school really needs this much space it should be split into several smaller projects that can fit on smaller sites. Any project that is this large and designed by one person will look like the Disney version of the gothic. Gamble Rogers designed much of Yale but his residential colleges are all built on independent sites and have independent character and differentiating elements. This does not.

    (2) Tarrying down 11 existing buildings – many of which are over 150 years old is a total waste of money, materials, history, etc. So much for Yale sustainability.

  • Anonymous

    As a morsel, I say amen! A repudiation of modern architecture makes me immensely happy. If you people want innovative buildings, pay for them yourself and live in them. Stop making others live in them while you belittle their critiques by claiming only someone trained in architecture can make a valid critique. Stop saying "oh it adds so much to this campus… it's so *insert pretentious adjective*" when the extent of your interaction with the building is passing by. I'd move to these colleges in a heartbeat. Go live in Morse.

  • yalesnark

    No. 9,

    Why is it that all critics of contemporary architecture do not seem to understand what they are complaining about? As others have said, Morse and Stiles are NOT representative of anything in contemporary architecture, for they aren't even contemporary (Begun in 1961, they are half a century old: "Modern" architecture, c. 1900-1970, is over already)

    If anyone indulges in blind and presumptive posturing, it is certainly not those who would like Yale to remain great into the future through demonstration of her continuing intellectual and aesthetic vitality in architectural terms, but those who cling longingly to her greatness in the past, a past represented by Stern's bland Neo-Gothic architecture.

    And should one take seriously the argument that the many people who prefer contemporary architecture are "elitist"? Elitist compared to whom? Compared to their peers, namely other spoiled Yalies who cling to the Neo-Gothic without deeper reflection? One senses, on the contrary, that "elitism" is precisely the sort of thing that the Neo-Gothic still manages to express today.

    What Yale should acknowledge is that the best architecture-- architecture that is well-considered, comfortable, and vital--is the only kind appropriate to the ideals of Yale's future mission and purpose.

    p.s. Contrary to your implication, people with lots of money actually do like (and pay for) contemporary architecture. indeed, some of them would donate money to this very project if Yale made the project worthwhile.

  • Anonymous

    I have to agree with number 7. They will look like blatant ripoffs rather than being original and unique--there are several options: 1) a hybrid style combining the best features of Pierson, TD and Davenport versus the standard gothic; 2) something similar to Woolsey, Woodbridge, and the book and snake tomb; 3) something resembling the various mansions and houses on hillhouse (all the more fitting considering the colleges location); or 4) do it in the Egyptian revivialist style to help it blend in with the cemetery next door.

    Again, you can be original without going to the extremes that Saarinen did. Also, while Yale may be most closely associated with the gothic style, that doesn't mean other traditions don't have a rich heritage with the university as well (see my hillhouse example).

  • anonymous 6

    I'm a little puzzled at where Stern's critics would draw the line. And why.

    Were the James Gamble Rogers colleges blatant ripoffs? Were they kitsch, when built? Or was Rogers they working within a tradition of collegiate architecture? If the latter, why? And if the Rogers colleges were legitimate, why aren't these?

    Or were architects of the 1930s somehow permitted to adopt medieval university forms for present use, whereas architects today are not so permitted? And why is that distinction defensible?

    7 seems to think that the Rogers colleges were a "productive dialogue" with the past, whereas the Stern colleges will not be. Why so? What exactly does 7 mean by "productive dialogue," other than buildings that are pleasant to live in? And in what way does the present proposal fall short of that standard, other than in 7's broadly stated opinion?

    In general: Oppose Stern's design, and either (i) concede that you would have opposed the Rogers designs too, and defend that position to generations of Yalies who have enjoyed the old colleges, or (ii) explain how and why you distinguish Rogers from Stern, justify the conclusion that what Rogers did is just fine, but what Stern is proposing is not.

    Leaving aside the issue of consistency, most of the critics here are missing why Yale is doing what it is doing. Yale is opting for a very traditional design in order to make the new colleges acceptable to the undergraduates who will be housed there. The hope is to ensure that no one will want to move from the new colleges to the old because of the new colleges' design. Why is that not a legitimate reason to make the new colleges resemble the old?

  • Alum

    Has anyone thought of NOT ANNEXING upper classmen to old campus instead? Make the few colleges with annexed students smaller (which would probably make the new colleges a bit larger) and then the freshman from at least one of these new colleges could live on OC. Getting annexed to old campus as an upper classman was the main reason my classmates and I moved off campus.

  • local architect

    I totally understand Yale's logic to have the colleges built in a certain style. In the end this is a themed environment that has to match Yale's corporate identity and the undergraduates parents taste in order to sell.
    What does make me mad is the totally undemocratic way of awarding a $600 million project without any competition, discussion, or other public involvement. All of the arguments being brought up here (there are valid points from the "modernists" and "historicists" fraction) should have been heard before giving away the contract. Especially the questionable urbanistic attitude of Sterns pseudo-medieval castle should have been discussed in a broader forum, since it will not only affect Yale but all of New Haven.

  • yalesnark

    No. 12, you ask a good question: if we built neo-Gothic in the 30's, and we love the product, why don't we today?

    I would say that one reason it worked then and not now is that revival styles were still big in the 30's. It was a legacy of the 19th century when revival styles were the rage. Architects like Rogers still understood and mastered the craftsmanship and design principles of revival styles. They had craftsmen who could make convincing versions of it, too. The original colleges reflect a level of detail and craft that embodies a whole tradition that no longer survives. Those stone carvings on the Law School? With a very few exceptions, they couldn't be made today. The carving of complicated stone ashlar? We don't do that anymore. For almost all details, machines have replaced hands, and the work produced is boring and uniform. The end result, therefore, is that imitations tend to look fake and even cheap because they simply aren't made with the same knowledge, care, or craft as they were in the past. There is no way of bringing all that back.

    There is another, more profound answer, too. It would say that history and ideas have moved on, thus making the Neo-Gothic something of an inappropriate choice in today's world, even though it may have been a natural one in the past. Let us, after all, consider what Neo-Gothic represents. First and foremost, Neo-Gothic embodies an ideal of education that sprung out of the Oxbridge experience: it represents the romance of a certain type of education that Americans in the 20's and 30's (The Great Gatsby, for example) aspired to. Americans in the 30's aspired to a patrician ideal, meaning the educational architecture of the upper classes of the British Empire, which still loomed as a model for many of us Americans in those days. We may have modeled our educational methods (e.g. seminars) on the German university system, but we wanted our educations to take place in good, English surroundings like our English cousins of noble birth. Traditionally, in England, Gothic was the architecture of education, so this may have made sense. The tradition (look at Harvard) was nowhere as uniform here.

    The reason why Neo-Gothic may seem a retrograde choice today is that Yale no longer needs to point to Oxbridge as its model. It has achieved greatness on its own, American contemporary terms. That's what its many excellent Modern and contemporary buildings represent. Instead of wanting to define itself in terms of a glorified, but stale, English past, it should continue to identify itself with a glorious future. As privileged as we Yalies still are, most of us no longer identify with the class privileges of aristocratic England of yore. Some want architecture to fit reality, not to reflect the yearnings of yesteryear.

    More could be said on this, of course, but I would like to briefly conclude by pointing out that Neo-Gothic is NOT Yale's only style. Yale is perhaps 60% Gothic, and although Gothic does indeed define its campus character, many have argued that Yale's architectural personality is actually much more heterogeneous. When you consider the wide variety of buildings styles at Yale, including colonial Georgian, Federalist, Neo-Renaissance, Beaux-Arts, Modern, Brutalist, Post-Modern, Contemporary, the place really resembles contemporary New York City, with its tremendous architectural variety, as much as Oxbridge (which, to be fair, is hardly all Gothic either). I would argue that the Yale character, for better or worse, is richly urban, meaning filled with variety and episodic interest.

    In sum, we can do what we want, speak in our own voice, because we are, thank heavens, one of the greatest schools in the world. We were not there yet in the 30's.

  • MC 00

    I'm a little bummed about the neo-gothic retreads. Apparently a former morsel's opinion is valued here. I really enjoyed hte architectural heterogeneity at yale, with brilliant designs from differnet time periods (e..g kahns buildings, saarinens buildings, ct hall). the neo-gothic colleges are great but belong to a different time in yale's history, when i guess the depression made labor cheap, and old-world stoneworkers recently arrived from europe still existed. i can't imagine the detailing being comparable or original now. it's time to move on. and yeah, as for the modern colleges, i actually have fond memories of figuring out how to fit furniture into my room w/o right angles, with a view of hte lipstick, and partying in the sexplex.

    so then i went ot med school at harvard, and it's striking how their campus architecture for hte most part clearly strives to replicate or compliment their trademark georgian look from centuries ago, reflecting (i think) a broader culture there of obsession with convention and prestige. original buildings would reflect yale's cultural vibrancy and wonderful artistic taste.

  • anonymous 6 & 12

    Yalesnark, I understand your argument better now, but I still have some disagreements with it.

    1. I'm not sure why you say that Yale was "not there yet in the 30's." Yale had little need then to be insecure on the world educational stage; in some ways, Yale's preeminence then was less challenged than it is now (Stanford and NYU, for example, barely registered back then). So to the extent that you're relying on an argument that Yale can stand on its own merits now, but couldn't then, I would respectfully disagree.

    2. Having said that, I do agree that Yale (and Harvard, for that matter) may have looked to the Oxbridge college model *in part* for reasons that we today might find a little distasteful. Nevertheless, it is hard to argue with the success of the Oxbridge collegiate model as transplanted to these shores. Perhaps the transplantation was in part a result of Jazz Era patricianism or anglophilia; but it was also an attempt by growing universities to preserve an originally collegiate character that they feared they were losing.

    Now the Oxbridge college model is itself quite retrograde. It goes back to 1100 or so. So there's a reason that both Harvard and Yale chose revival styles in the 1930s. They were bringing forward a part of their own past, and a part of the past of the universities that (like it or not) Harvard and Yale were founded to emulate. And so today the Yale-college/Harvard-house model stands in sharp architectural contrast to most college dormitories. That contrast can continue to be expressed architecturally.

    In other words, although the architecture of Yale's colleges might be read as socially elitist, there is no reason why that should be the only reading. The Rogers style also expresses a sense of the academic tradition, and a certain sense of otherworldly community. Especially these days, for a university to build in a style that is not "relevant" to the outside world might be a good thing. Indeed, to express the academic ideal--the ivory tower, or the "academical village"--architecturally is a very American tradition.

    3. Now your point about craft capabilities might well be accurate, and might provide a reason not to do what Stern is suggesting. Are US architects and builders no longer capable of building what they built in the 1930s? In other words, should the design cater to the current creative incapacity of the construction industry? Or if an important client such as Yale were to lead, might the industry follow? I would be interested to hear what people think on this point.

  • Leroy Solomon

    Dean is right. News media years ago dealt with serious issues and not a whole lot of sleazy bullshit. Thank God we still have Washington Week In Review and The News Hor With Jim Lehrer….

  • Hieronymus

    Would that social debate at yale were so courteous, so civil, so informed.

    As for the buildings: while I wish they had a bit more pizzazz, I would rather that Yale err on the "comfy, boring" side than on the "daring, avante garde."

    I mean: what if they built another Luce? or, gads, another 'shroom-fired Saarinenity? No, no: the students in those colleges will be grateful and fortunate.

    As for the choice of architect: Yale is not a democracy (and, really, did you *seriously* think someone other than Stern ever had a chance? Really?)

  • Dismayed

    It seems to me the downturn in the economy provides a perfect braking period to rethink this possible train wreck.

    1) Does Yale really want a half-billion dollar no-bid contract given out by fiat? Didn’t she learn anything from Blackwater and Halliburton?

    2) Why not have a competition with 7-10 prominent architects (or any number of architects) invited to participate? That surely is a better way to achieve higher artistic goals. That’s how Maya Lin made her mark.

    3) Yale’s “tradition” is not only neo-Gothic, but also great buildings. While Stern’s buildings may be pleasant, they will not be great. Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron, Renzo Piano, Tadao Ando, and others (whose names I’m not up on) should be invited -- can’t we really push the bounds a bit and get something of great artistic worth?

    4) When I look at the horrid MacMillan Center building on Hillhouse, I’m reminded all too sadly of how poor architecture can nearly ruin an urban scape. Upper Hillhouse Ave. used to be enchanting. Now it’s forever marred by that clunker.

    5) I was thrilled to have been assigned to a Saarinen college (I even transferred from one to the other – my only criticism being that they were overly monochromatic (as are parts of Berkeley, HGS, etc.)). People who liked them tended to be those more comfortable dealing with aesthetic challenge, while those who disliked them tended to prefer the pleasant, less challenging iconography of the past – in sum, pushing the bounds vs. picturesque.

    6) What about one college by Stern, the other by another architect? That would put the colleges into dialogue and inspire the design auteurs to reach higher level of architectonic discourse than gabled roofs amid a smattering of brick towers.

    7) Construction costs in the 2010’s do not mirror those of the Depression. Due to cost and a broad decline in craftsmanship, the humorous and elaborate detailing in Rogers’ colleges cannot and will not be replicated by Stern. They end up being streamlined imitations of imitations.

    8) Why is an economist on his own making such a huge decision – one with artistic, urban planning, philosophical, and social implications – for the future of Yale? This is clearly not his area of expertise.

    9) Picasso was oh-so-daring in the 30s. Now all of us have a Picasso-print hanging on our walls. What’s shocking, daring, and groundbreaking in one decade becomes absorbed into the collective psyche and barely raises an eyebrow 50 years later.

    Why BEGIN with the retrograde? (When Notre Dame was built, it was daringly modern.) Why don’t we begin by thinking in an aesthetically brave fashion? It’s sad when Minneapolis, Milwaukee, and Akron are being markedly bolder and more aesthetically / intellectually adventuresome than Yale (Nouvel, Calatrava, and Coop Himmelblau respectively).

  • Alum

    Keep in mind that James Gamble Rogers was the subject of bitter criticism by his contemporaries for his retrograde designs. Frank Lloyd Wright is claimed to have said he'd rather be in Harkness Tower looking at the Taft Hotel than the other way around, because he found the design employed by Rogers so abhorrent. Other contemporary architects were similarly disdainful of Rogers and his work. So who liked what he did? Generations of Yalies who feel fortunate indeed to have lived in his work product for a few years of their lives.

    I'm a big fan of the Rogers work at Yale but also a big fan of the Kahn museums and much of the modern architecture Yale built in the post-war years. And I include the much-criticized Stiles and Morse, whose major flaws flow more from tight budgets than poor design concepts. I didn't live in either but dated (and am now married to) someone who did and spent a lot of time there. It sounds like many of their flaws will be addressed in the currently planned renovations. I predict a new appreciation for those colleges once that work in completed.

    Is Stern going to measure up to the Rogers standard? Not likely, for reasons of cost and other resources. Does Yale owe the world a contemporary design? No, of course not. President Levin and the Corporation seemingly decided that they didn't want to roll their $600 million dice on a 'hit or miss' design and that seems like a reasonable decision. Yale continues to invest in cutting edge architecture on its campus (see the Foster design for SOM); I'm ok with taking a safe approach with the new colleges. But please, be sure to study such examples as Whitman College at Princeton for how not to do 21st century gothic.

  • Anonymous

    The problems with this project go way beyond style. While debating stylistic opinions is fun discussion, it is a sideshow that prevents people from discussing the true flaws in the proposal. The sitting is bad, the scale is absolutely hugh (think Branford + Saybrook + Silliman + Timothy Dwight), and the massing is incredibly awkward… just to name a few. Just look at Stern's work at Harvard and UVA to see how his work gets the historic style right but everything else wrong.

    The gothic of today is not the same as the gothic of the 1930s. The level of detail once possible is no longer due to the economics of construction. Gothic without exquisite detail will appear as a failed attempt at replicating Rogers, always less than and never equal to the older colleges.

  • Anonymous

    If a competition was held with the requirement that the proposals had to be gothic, this proposal never would have won. Their are good traditional architects that do work at this scale, Stern is not one of them. He is okay at small buildings but not not major complexes.

  • Ken McKenna ('75, PhD '78)

    Notre Dame de Paris was begun well after the gothic style had become accepted and popular, and much of what modern tourists enjoy about Notre Dame today was designed and built long after gothic had become anything but "modern." Indeed, much of today's Notre Dame consists of additions designed and built very much in the spirit of the existing and proposed gothic Yale colleges.

    The Abbey Church of St Denis ("Cathédrale royale de Saint-Denis," or simply "Basilique Saint-Denis," previously the "Abbaye de Saint-Denis", rebuilt in gothic style 1137 to 1144) was the first "Gothic Cathedral" (although not a cathedral at the time). The cornerstone for Notre Dame de Paris was laid in 1163. It wasn't until the 1260s that the transepts of Notre Dame were changed to the Gothic style.

    The original "gothic" of Notre Dame de Paris was a pretty conservative version of the style, and many of the most notable gothic elements of the cathedral were added centuries later. A big modernization campaign was effected in the 16th Century, for example, after Protestants damaged the cathedral. All but one of the flying buttresses and the distinctive statue of the Virgin that stands in front of the rose window over the entrance were all added in the 19th Century, as were most of the current gothic pointed arch stained glass windows (cut through the stone at that time, replacing small circular windows, a few of which remain). The 19th Century work also included construction of a flèche (a type of spire) as well as the addition of the chimeras on the "Galerie des Chimères" and a great deal more. Enjoy!

    The 19th Century modifications to Notre Dame are and were controversial because they seriously altered all earlier architectural impulses. Fortunately, construction of Yale’s new colleges doesn’t require anything like that.

    Some of the objections to the gothic styling expressed in the comments above raise what I consider an interesting question: If Yale's colleges are not an appropriate venue for gothic styling, then what would be? Is the real objection here that nothing (or at least nothing important) should be built in gothic style from now on? Is it not enough that much modernism is built, but rather all previous styles much be ignored? If not, where is a major gothic statement appropriate? I'm not concluding or suggesting that this is the motivation of any particular critics above, but I wonder.

  • Anonymous

    The Stern colleges will make a great addition to the Yale campus. They will complement and provide a sense of architectural unity to a campus that is divided by a cemetery. That area of campus always seemed like it was not part of Yale, and to attempt bold dashing architecture a la Calatrava could leave the campus split into two architectural camps with no unity of form or purpose.

    This is not the time or place to take risks with the architecture and end up with colleges that do not feel like they are part of Yale. Morse and Stiles (my residential college) have always felt a bit out of kilter with the rest of the campus, and two more colleges in this vein in that area of campus could lead to an alienation of the students in those colleges from the rest of Yale. Stern seems to understand this point very well, and hence his proposed design.

    The architects who have commented above are all too focused on creating great works of architecture in and of themselves without any regard to the effect this will have on the residential college experience at Yale. Stern is trying to unify the campus and the students by creating a familiar, common architectural style for these two new colleges. They will say Yale to anyone who cares to listen.

    His work at Columbia University and in other parts of New York City have always enhanced the living experience and provided a sense of community and belonging rarely found in current-day architecture, and much less in New York City. Let's find another place or purpose on campus where the likes of Calatrava (one of my favorite architects) can leave his footprint. For now, let's leave the two new colleges in the hands of Stern, and to those who worry about the quality of the craftsmanship, Stern always designs that which can be built to look original and not streamlined imitations of imitations.

  • hmmm…

    I have to wonder whether or not the timing of the release of these plans (after the end of the school year) is not part of a larger attempt at excluding the input of the Yale community on this important project. In all fairness, one cannot help but suspect some secret dealings lie behind Stern's garnering of the commission. Was this part of some unspoken compensation package?

    I've heard that Levin made a good call by hiring Stern to lead our School of Architecture. But what has been good for the School of Architecture may end up being a tragedy for the university as a whole, particularly if these mediocre designs are built. They will be a blemish on the campus for centuries to come--or until we tear them down. Imagine the NYTimes architecture review blurb when the colleges are done: "With new colleges, Yale embraces the past and renounces long tradition of far-sighted architectural experiment"

  • A&A

    For one who appreciates the eclectic character of the Yale campus, I am troubled at the prospect of losing Hammond Hall and the Mudd Library. While these buildings may not be considered exemplary of Yale’s great architectural heritage, they nevertheless are testimony to distinct moments in Yale’s architectural history.

    Hammond Hall dates back to the turn of the last century and is among the oldest extant buildings commissioned by the Sheffield Institute. Its “head house” in many ways evokes the same Beaux Arts sensibility of materials and proportions that would later be elaborated in McKim, Meade, & White’s campus for Columbia University. While the “shed” at the rear probably does not warrant saving, the head house is in excellent condition and still eminently expresses a hansom brick and limestone composition with a beautifully ornamented copper cornice where hammers and anvils recall the original program for the building. Mudd is the work of a student of Louis Kahn and is quite respectful of that master’s legacy. Its somewhat austere and simple massing is countered by the sensitive detailing of concrete, brick, and glass. Despite its warehouse program it is a very thoughtful intervention in what has heretofore been a desolate corner of the campus.

    Yale abounds in delightful assemblages of building fragments: Linsly-Chittenden, Silliman, the Art Gallery, Old Campus, etc.; Hammond and Mudd could also be cleverly incorporated into the master plan for the new colleges. It seems that this large site could easily accommodate two colleges the size of TD and Silliman without sacrificing Hammond and Mudd.

    Some argue that Yale should not try to simulate its historical tradition with a gothic design of the new colleges. Fine, but we must also remember that just because we cannot recreate Yale’s history doesn’t mean we should indiscriminately erase it.

  • Anonymous

    i realize this isn't the ideal forum to express this, but am i alone in feeling deeply disturbed about the expansion in general? lecture sizes will be bigger (e.g. the pre-med classes are already pushing 200), sections inevitably larger, gym/libraries/commons will be more crowded, theater space etc more scarce, lab research opportunities more scarce, and so on. it's not like they're expanding the entire university here (adding profs for more classes, more TAs)--just adding 10-20% more undergrads.

    levin's done an amazing job in his tenure--but am i missing something here?

  • Trumbull Alum '97

    From the photo, it looks like a graveyard is now the center of campus.

  • alum

    To #20 and others who don't like Whitman College at Princeton:

    What are your criticisms of Whitman? I have not seen it in person, and from photos afar, it appears good to my untrained eyes. Why is the building bad? Are you concerned that Yale's 2 new residential colleges will turn out like Whitman?

  • Anonymous

    To #27. Actually, the increased enrollment will result in an expanded university. More faculty, more labs, etc. have all been discusses in the context of the expansion.

  • anonymous 6, 12, & 17

    To 27: As 30 says, the issues that you raise are at least being considered. See the Study Group report on new residential colleges, and perhaps the Development Office pages on the new residential colleges too. Yale's faculty is supposed to grow, there's supposed to be a new theater and gym, etc.

    To 29: Have you ever seen a neo-Gothic tower as unconvincing as the one in this picture?

    Gothic towers should lead the eye heavenward. But the fenestration on this one makes the entire tower look like a stairway to nowhere.

  • Alum

    To #29: here is a link to some photos of Whitman:

    It isn't horrible but it seems bland, certainly in comparison to the James Gamble Rogers buildings at Yale.

    And to #27, among the things President Levin has done well is planning for this expansion. The plan is to decrease current over-crowding in housing by expanding the student body by less than the amount of increase space created by the new colleges. And the plan includes expanding academic and other facilities and faculty. See Levin's February 2008 report here, including the link to the 100 page Report of the Study Group to Consider New ResidentialColleges:

  • NH Tourist

    As someone who enjoys Rogers' Neo-Gothic designs, I'm impressed by the comments and criticisms here. Comments No. 8 & 15, in particular, bring up some valid shortcomings in Stern's design.

    If anything, the Gothic sensibility abhorred "sameness". The overwhelming largeness of the project and the inability of his design to absorb existing styles on the site almost warrants giving this project the oxymoronic label of "corporate gothic". Stern is a solid architect, but there are some serious ideological flaws in this design.

    As for the mention to FLW, you also have to remember Wright also despised the "Internationalist" architects that many of our name designers today derive from. Among notable contemporary architects, only Calatrava comes close to Wright's principles and I haven't seen anything by him that comes close to resembling a campus environment.

  • Anonymous

    To #32 & #31. Thank you for posting those links. I would also like to discuss Sterns new Greenberg Conference Center (next to Betts House). I think it is another example on how not to do things.

  • dismayed

    While the Notre Dame comments above are factually correct, I used it as an example because St. Denis would have been a dead allusion for most non-Francophiles and non-art history majors.

    My point remains valid, however: St. Denis, Chartres, Notre Dame, and others incorporate the NEW style of Gothic architecture. They leave behind the Romanesque. Moreover they employ technological advancements (such as buttressing at Chartres) so that the stone walls can be opened up to make way for glass (the “Light of Heaven”, as Abbot Suger might say).

    Second point. While people routinely refer to the alleged “flaws” of Ezra Stiles and Morse, such “flaws” are never enumerated. Having lived in one and worked in the other, I’m never quite sure what people are referring to. I see no flaws in them that other colleges don’t share. I also see several assets in them which other colleges lack (commodious singles, stunning tower views, ingenious site planning (the pathway to Payne Whitney, for instance, etc.). I find this nit-picking to be an urban myth.

    Finally, feel free to view some graphic illustrations below to imagine what Yale could achieve (a la China at the Olympics – a country Pres. Levin admires so heartily) by embracing our own age instead of looking backward 100 years (to buildings which themselves look backward 700 more). What if 21st century light (a la the Beijing Water Cube or Barcelona’s Torre Agbar), were employed for instance, as a contemporary answer to Gothic light?

    P.S. The Princeton “new” college is perhaps not as horrible as it could be, but it’s a bit of a dunce. What a missed opportunity.



    Jean Nouvel

    Richard Meier

    Herzog and de Meuron

    Water Cube Beijing

    Zaha Hadid

    Rafael Moneo (Los Angeles)

    Snohetta (Norway, etc.)

    Tadao Ando

    Renzo Piano

  • alum

    "Whitman … isn't horrible but it seems bland, certainly in comparison to the James Gamble Rogers buildings at Yale."

    That pretty much sum ups MOST of gothic Princeton, both old and new! With a few exceptions, Princeton long, long ago opted for a far more restrained version of gothic revival than Yale chose. That doesn't mean there is anything WRONG with Princeton's campus, which is gorgeous in its own way. But as a consequence, Whitman was designed to blend into a very different campus than Yale's: A very different campus in a very different gothic.

    Is Princeton (and Whitman) "bland" and Yale "elegant and detailed," or is Princeton "restrained" and Yale "too elaborate and stagey?" Who cares? Both places are beautiful to an open mind and eye. But each campus does (or should) impose its own distinct parameters on new construction.

    Further, some gothic tower are NOT supposed to lead the eye heavenward! Gothic was never just for churches. Palaces, forts, city halls, private homes, monestaries, hospitals, tombs, war memorials, whole towns, libraries, UNIVERSITIES, and lots more were built in many different versions of gothic architecture in the middle ages by many different kinds of people … some of whom never expected or cared to see heaven in this life or the next. Sometimes the gothic impulse was very much of the earthiest parts of this earth. And there's nothing wrong with that.

  • interested observer

    It's good to see so much discussion and passion about buildings which are likely going to exist for a hundred years or more. Now, if that passion would be met with an equal passion for donating towards the project, you might have something.

    There's a tendency to romanticize the past, and assume it cost far less to construct than it did, and thereby to excuse away doing as much today.

    It is looked upon as fashionable frugality to bemoan any expense these days as excessive, or to come up with reasons why you'd love to donate, but can't. At least "not right now". Truth is, you get what you pay for. If you want cheap, insubstantial buildings, then keep giving a hundred dollars a year to Yale when they call for your donation, feeling good about it the whole while. But if you want something your grandchildren will be fighting to keep, and which die-hards will work to preserve, then open your wallet. You need to spend as much to build these buildings (whether modern or historicist in style) as those who went before you spent on the buildings you lived in when you studied here.

    If you haven't donated, and substantially, then you ought to quit complaining (in advance, mind you) about how cheap the things will look.

    People did not work for free in the 1920's, and stone masonry of the quality which abounds on campus did not simply fall out of the sleeve of every construction worker there was at some discounted rate simply because there was a depression. Every building built in the era would be just as beautiful if such beauty was as cheap as many of you seem to think it was.

    Truth is, either you can afford it, or you cannot.

    Time to quit waxing poetic and debating, and time to start donating.

    The Harkness family might kindly remind us, when you donate enough to build the building(s), you get a little more say with regard to what it looks like. And until then, your opinion is kindly noted, but not terribly influential.

    If you, in private life, have opted for vinyl siding on your home, in lieu of the real thing, then you really have no place to suggest that these buildings will be cheap imitations.

    If you have purchased a bigger, new, more cheaply constructed home rather than a smaller, better built (perhaps older) one, well, you are not in much of a position to lecture us on how these new buildings will not be as substantial as those they take their cues from.

    If your mortgage is a short, 5-year adjustable mortgage, because you're gambling that you'll be moving on to a "better house" later on, well, you're guilty of perpetuating the cheap get-in, get-out, "leave it to the next guy" way of building cheap things and flipping it. Build cheap and try to sell dear.

    Time to build dear in the first place.

    Would you accept a 5% raise in tuition to build these buildings the "right way", if it were designed by your pet architect?

    It is no more affordable to have Calatrava or Renzo Piano or de Meuron build you the vision you are imagining, than it would be to build a perfect replica of whatever Rogers building you prefer. If it is good, and done "correctly", it is expensive.

    There are lots of folks driving around in cars they have to lease because they can't really afford them. Can you afford the buildings you feel so strongly ought to be built?

  • looking heavenward

    But 36, the problem is that Porphyrios was not consistent at Whitman. He built an arched arcade and verged on finials in places, which suggest that he was going for Gothic verticality.

    But then the corner tower at Whitman looks square and stumpy. Somewhat like, as you say, a fortress. Except that it has a fair number of windows in odd places that make it look like a staircase.

    Don't get me wrong -- there are some amazing Gothic staircases. But somehow I doubt that one of them is in that corner tower.

    Even Stern's two stumpier towers are more inspiring than the Whitman corner tower.

  • @#37

    One point to #37: Yale's college system was built in the '30s (not the '20s), built by recent immigrants, many of whom were fleeing Europe's version of the great depression. So: yah, in fact, the quality was cheap at that time.

    That said: with recent gov't action, Yale may soon have an opp to get (what passes for) quality workmanship on the cheap once again and soon enough.

  • interested observer


    Preplanning, and Master planning for Yale's colleges, and the style and design of the buildings began as early as 1919, with John Russell Pope's work, which ultimately established the tone and direction the colleges would take when finally built. Built in the 30's, sure. Costs and planning in the 20's involved cost estimates. Plans are never executed in full and then priced with fingers crossed.

    Labor, of the type required to execute stonework to the level that was accomplished, was never cheap. Simply not true. It is a romantic oversimplification to believe that waves of unemployed master stone carvers walked the earth and then, when needed by Yale, worked for cheap. The buildings could have been built more cheaply, but were not. In fact, much of them are steel framed, which is cheaper, and only veneered in stone. Cost is always an issue. Always has been. There are records of cost overruns even during the construction of the great pyramids… even slave labor is not free. Nor cheap. Neither was the stonework at Yale.

  • yalesnark

    No. 37,

    I think everyone commenting on this article is perfectly aware that it takes lots of money to build new residential colleges. The approximate sum is no secret ($600m), and Yale has not been shy in soliciting alumni funds for the project. There is no reason to assume that those commenting here do not give to the university--nor can anyone here be blamed if those who give the most have bad taste in architecture and prefer lousy buildings. No matter who gives, we all live with the result.

  • Nice

    The fact that the tower lines up with the end of York Street is a brilliant move. has more coverage of the story.

  • Anonymous

    The largest travesty in all of this is how all dissenting voices to the largest building project at Yale in a generation are so completely silenced. The presentation last week happened with little announcement, after students had left town, and behind closed doors to a very small group of people. The model and drawings were carted into Woolsey Hall for the public to see for only three days over alumni weekend and then quickly disappeared. Stern, being the current and somewhat totalitarian dean of the architecture school, has made the faculty and students of the school afraid to say anything bad about the project. On top of all of this, no forum exists for any discussion to be had… except perhaps for this post.

    It is interesting to note how the project has been presented and sold. No site plan was released to the public. The only plan of the complex that has been shown has the Farmington Canal, Grove Street Cemetery, and Prospect Street as its limits. A site plan depicting a larger context would reveal that these new colleges are at a scale vastly larger than any of the existing colleges and may also lead people to think about what currently is on this site. This is precisely what Stern wanted, as his proposal relies on an assumption of an empty site, or “blank canvas”. People realizing that Hammond Hall and Mud Library are among the buildings slated for demolition is not something he wanted. The site model is so large that the new colleges are yards away from the old, making it nearly impossible to compare their relative scales.

    What ever happened with the proposal to cut a new gate into the rear of the cemetery to allow people to walk through it to get to the new college? As I remember this was an assumption that was used to help select the site of the new colleges.

    Does anyone really believe that Stern’s office can do the detailing and working drawings of a project of this scale and importance effectively?

  • @ 39

    Er, no.

    For historical accuracy: The Memorial Quadrangle, which is now two colleges, was built from 1917 to 1921.

  • alum (from 36)

    It's OK with me not to like Whitman, #38. I've seen it and walked through it and I think it fits in nicely with the Princeton campus, certainly much better than almost any of Princeton's modern structures. (The 1970's-modernist dorm across the street from Whitman that was torn down more recently was almost unbelieveably awful. I believe Princeton is building another gothic dorm in its place.) And Whitman seems comfortable enough, although I haven't tried to live there or even asked the people who do live there if they like it. (Does anyone know if the residents of Whitman like it or find it comfortable?) One certainly can make reasonable arguments - and yours is one - that Whitman could have been better styled, although the stylistic elements you identify as flawed are not the kind of thing one would expect to degrade materially the living experience of the Whitman residents. Those elements do, of course, affect the way the place looks … and that certainly matters to the residents.

  • dismayed

    I just wanted to add one more architect into the mix, Thomas Mayne.

  • Achinerd

    It is a huge mistake to think that detailing the new residential colleges will be done in the same way (and require hiring people to do the same things)done in the 1930's and before to create Yale's earlier gothic buildings.

    Reecent advances in technology have made the kind of detail appropriate to gothic styling far less expensive than was the case in the recent period. In the 1920's and '30's only human hands could create such detailing. But computer driven lasers now carve stone and cut wood at greatly reduced cost. For example, most fretwork on home furniture is now done by lasers operated by computers. Similarly, modern stone cutting technology allows stone trim (which the colleges are to feature) to be cut thinner, cheaper and with more precision than than was the case just a few years ago.

    It is also possible to use 3-dimensional printers to generate prototypes of detail elements, and perhaps even some of the elements themselves (including those made from metal). Here's a link:

  • Trumbull Alum '97

    The administration is glad to have us rant and rave on this web site. This entire project, which will literally change the face of Yale for generations, has been communicated horribly to the alumni, the students, the faculty and the public. Perhaps the fall in the endowment is a blessing in disguise--we should take this opportunity to organize our voices. Otherwise, we might as well be talking to a brick wall. Perhaps a special alumni conference in New Haven would be a good start?

  • Anonymous

    It is sad that the Mudd Library cannot be incorporated into the plans. This is a beautiful building with many elements of Louis Kahn's style that could easily complement the Gothic architecture of the planned colleges, much in that same fashion that was brilliantly accomplished with the Yale Art Gallery on Chapel Street more than 50 years ago. It would truly pull the campus together in terms of a common theme based on the masterful blending of architectural styles. This building in on the CORNER of the lot, and it is hard to understand why it cannot be spared.

    It appears that the house on the corner of Prospect and Sachem will be incorporate into the plans. I am bafffled by this decision given that every other building in the area of the planned colleges will be torn down. It seems to me that the Mudd Library serves more of a function for Yale than this house. From a fund-raising perspective, it also seems to me that the Mudd Library is perfectly functional and less than 30 years old. How will those who contributed funds for its construction feel about giving more money to Yale for capital improvement projects if the University tears down fairly new buildings which can be easily incorporated into its expansion plans? It seems very wasteful to me. Presumably, another storage library elsewhere on campus will have to be built, and this will only add to the cost of the new colleges. Yale should make every effort to save the Mudd Library building, for both architectural reasons and practical considerations.

    Hammond Hall would be harder to save because of its physical location. Only the main building is really worth saving, and it would be hard to blend the Beaux-Arts style with the Gothic without causing a clash between the two that could detract from the beauty of both. I do not know of any examples where Beaux-Arts has been successfully incorporated with Gothic, and hence I understand the reluctance to keep this historical building in the plans.

  • Anonymous

    I don't believe the current proposal calls for the house on the corner of Prospect and Sachem to be saved. The model depicts a planned new building on the site that Stern had to incorporate. This is why the model depicts it as being so large.

  • Anonymous

    If the house on the corner of Prospect and Sachem will not be spared, then would it not make more sense to use this space for the new colleges and spare the Mudd Library at the other end of Sachem Street? The Gothic style of the new colleges would complement all of the surrounding architecture on Sachem and Prospect, with the possible exception of the SOM building, but since SOM is scheduled to vacate its current location once the new business school is built, would it not make more sense to use the SOM space for the planned new building? There are large bulidngs already on that side of Prospect Street. It just seems like such a waste to raze the Mudd Library and then build a new building on the opposite end of Sachem. Is this really the most optimal use of the available resources and space?

    I do not mean to be critical, but I do think this plan needs to be reconsidered taking all of the 50+ comments above into consideration. I think everyone who has participated in this discussion really does have Yale's best interest at heart.

  • Anonymous


    While I agree with you about Mudd Library, you are kidding yourself if you seriously believe that anyone gives a damn what you or I think.

  • anonymous '78

    There are two traditions of architectural tradition at Yale: James Gamble Rogers and Kahn-Rudolph-Saarinen. Stern is not as good as Rogers, and doesn't even aspire to the originality and greatness of Rudolph and Co. Griswold was a president who believed in building the best of our time; sadly, Levin has condoned the mediocre emulation of another time. Greatness would start with the vision of a president who should take Stern off speed dial. Why Stern rather than the architects Stern hires in his own school, on whom Stern depends for his reputation as dean? If Stern benefits from these appointments, then Yale, too, would benefit by looking beyond Stern to his own picks. This is all the very stale architecture of a deeply smug and conservative architectural regime. Need we do more than point out that Stern was the architecture W chose for his Presidential library in Texas?

  • @ 53

    Oh, please. I have no truck with conservative regimes, in Texas or elsewhere, but let's not play guilt-by-association games.

    Whether the design itself is deeply smug and conservative is another question. I suspect that most undergraduates will enjoy it. In ten years, let's check back and see whether the residents of the new colleges move to Morse and Stiles, or whether the flow is the other way around.

    Where that fact will leave 53 -- or most of the architects listed above -- is yet another question. When contemporary architects can be trusted to build structures that are habitable buildings, as opposed to theoretical constructs, then 53 et al. might have an argument.

    At the moment all they have is ivory-tower hermeneutic discourse at best, and commercial self-promotion at worst.

  • yalesnark

    Since the issue comes up again and again, I would like to challenge Stern's supporters to prove that contemporary architects can't be trusted "to build structures that are habitable buildings."

    Indeed, I want them to demonstrate that they actually know what contemporary architecture is rather than repeatedly claiming that modernist buildings from the 50's and 60's are travesties of "contemporary" building.

    Finally, I want them to explain why so many rich and famous people in the best cities in the country have recently struggled to buy apartments in towers designed by famous architects in our leading cities. They should offer substantial evidence that these buildings are somehow NOT comfortable if they want to prove that they are failures. Saying that they are following "herd instinct" is not a sufficient answer (Stern's colleges could be said, after all, to reflect another form of said instinct).

    I will note that those writers in favor of contemporary architecture have provided numerous examples of contemporary residential buildings that are both comfortable and pleasing. See above.

    I end by noting that it is often assumed that students will prefer Stern's colleges to contemporary buildings. The assumption is apparently based on the experience of the residents of Morse and Stiles. But, as has been repeatedly pointed out, Morse and Stiles are not contemporary buildings. Nobody builds things like them anymore. The complaint is, however, made all the more interesting by the number of Morse/Stiles alums who have written to celebrate their years in those colleges in this discussion. Apparently, some students actually do prefer Morse and Stiles.

    Students come to Yale from all over the world to learn and expand their horizons. If you are from Kansas, chances are you haven't seen anything but traditional architecture. Obviously, you're generally going to prefer collegiate Gothic to contemporary buildings. However, new buildings may inspire new, creative ideas. They help to change tastes and promote new directions. The whole rest of the world has embraced these changes (think Berlin, Beijing, Mumbai). Should are students be pampered in ersatz versions of Gothic colleges or should they enjoy and grow in the halls of an important, new building? I think the answer should be obvious.

  • Kansasalum

    Hey, #55, I am from Kansas. You just gave us all another example of the casual snobbery that exposes ignorance. If you ever make it out here, I would be happy to show you some great buildings here(Holl,Pei, etc) paid for by Kansas natives and appreciated by Kansas natives.

  • yalesnark

    You got me, 56! Clearly everything I said is now invalid.

  • @ 56

    Hey 56, Holl designed a building in Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas, the state. Maybe that seems like a detail. I don't know. it seems relevant, with the all accusations of ignorance you're throwing around.

  • LOL@Kansasalum

    Hey Kansasalum/#56

    I wouldnt take too much offense at #55's broadside of Kansas. They were just picking a random place to represent students who may not immediately appreciate a non-historic-looking dorm because of their lack of exposure to contemporary architecture. Even if the mention of Kansas was a misguided one (who knew?), you all probably agree that contemporary architecture such as Holl's can represent beautiful, enduring and inhabitable design.

  • yalesnark

    Like no. 58, I notice that 56 is wrong about Kansas architecture. The Pei AND the Holl are both in Kansas City, Missouri. I myself can find no reference to buildings by them in Kansas itself.

    So I guess I was right!

    p.s. As I thought might have been obvious, my point wasn't to single out the state of Kansas in particular, but rather to make a point. It's about the forest, man!

  • Kansasalum

    Maybe I was too subtle. Kansas City, Mo is part (less than 30%)of a larger metropolitan area that includes Kansas counties which provide much of the civic leadership for the entire area. Note that I said "paid for by Kansas natives and appreciated by Kansas natives." All true. I did not say "located in Kansas." Kansans are so generous that they build some of their best buildings in other states. No provincialism there.

    As to Stern's buildings, I suspect they will add to the glorious eclectic nature of the Yale campus. Recall how successful and popular (with the students) the Bass Library has been, which replaced the old Cross Campus library designed by one of the high priests of modernism, Edward Barnes. It is possible to be retrograde and make it work on all levels. And I also think Morse and Stiles (especially after their upgrading soon to be completed) are very attractive buildings; I lived in one and counted myself fortunate. There is no one period style that is right as long as whatever is done is done intelligently and with sensitivity to those who will use the buildings.

  • Anonymous

    Yale is having problems raising the $600 million to build these two new colleges, yet the use of the space seems so wasteful and without regard to sparing any expenses. Once again, why tear down a perfectly useful building like the Mudd Library that can be easily incorporated into Stern's design, and then leave the corner of Prospect and Sachem empty for a planned new theater building which appears to be the same size as the Mudd Library? Does it make ANY sense to build a theatre on the corner of Prospect and Sachem? Would it not make more sense to have the north college extend all the way to this corner (with a beautiful corner entrance that would complement the entrance to the turn-of-the-century-Gothic Osborn Memorial Lab), instead of the curved shape it now takes to reach all the way to the opposite end?

    I have given in the past for capital improvement projects at Yale because I love the eclectic architecture of the campus, but Yale has also always exercised excellent judgment in making optimal use of the available space and the existing facilities. A perfect example of this was the new music library at Sterling and the renovation of CCL into the Bass Library. The Swing Dorm is another example of Yale exercising prudent fiscal judgment in its campus renovation plans. I will, of course, continue to support the University, but as an economics major I think it would be a mistake to encourage Yale to spend lavishly without regard to the efficient use of the available resources.

  • anonymous

    to 62:

    1. Mudd Library isn't needed where it is anymore. The new West Campus has all the library-storage space Yale could ever want, so that rather streetscape-deadening function will move away from central New Haven. The land on which Mudd Library sits is better put to higher uses than library storage.

    2. Indeed it would be nicer if the north college were to occupy the corner of Prospect and Sachem. As you say, that would make room for a big Gothic gesture there. Yale's planners, however, are probably trying their hardest to liven up that area, so they would rather put the theater on the prominent corner site, where it can make two streets livelier, instead of just one.

    3. The curved shape of Stern's north college is not a fault. In fact, Gothic is better suited to irregular footprints than classical would be.

  • another to 62

    The north college should reach "all the way to the opposite end" because the project should welcome pedestrians who are walking to the new colleges from the west. Not everyone will approach the new colleges from the Prospect Street side. See the "design preview," part 1, page 4.

  • Anonymous

    To #63 & #64:

    Thank you for your observations. I still believe that the current footprint of the north college is trying to accomplish the impossible, and that it has some basic flaws that need to be addressed, as follows:

    1). The north college should extend all the way to the corner of Prospect and Sachem, with a main entrance facing Osborn Memorial Labs. This will visually connect Science Hill with the rest of the campus, or at least the north college. The problem with Science Hill is that it has the feel of a campus separate and apart from Yale and it is generally desolate at night. The new colleges should visually connect the Yale campus to Science Hill and vise versa.

    2). The attempt to close the circle around the cemetery and open that area to more pedestrian traffic by having the north college stretch all the way to Canal Street is laudable, but it will most likely fail. The problem is that nobody is going to head west from this area, particularly at night. Unfortunately, the area behind the Payne Whitney Gym and the Swing Dorm is desolate and dangerous at night. Even the Yale Police Station on the northwest corner of the cemetery has not helped to change this. My fear is that in an attempt to have the new colleges connect with and enliven both Prospect Street and the northwest corner of the cemetery, they will fail to do either. I think the focus should be to connect more with Prospect Street and Science Hill and not with the area to the west of the new colleges, and the architecture should support this goal.

    3). The planned theater makes no sense. On the nights it is dark, that corner of the campus will be desolate. Why not use the site of SOM for a cafe and study library or perhaps a mini-gym with a lap pool and keep it open every night until midnight? You might get students from TD and Silliman to make the trip up there to use the facilities. I realize this is a Bunshaft Building, and I would hate to see it razed, but his masterpiece at Yale is the Beinecke Library.

    4). I still believe the Mudd Library should be spared. It serves a valid purpose as a storage library (I would hate to see all of these documents end up in the West Campus and not readily accessible to walk-in users), the architecture would easily complement the Gothic architecture of the new colleges, and it is perfectly situated in an obscure corner of the lot.

    There is a real danger that the current footprint of the north college will leave those students feeling isolated from the rest of Yale.

  • Charybdis

    Still not good enough. The masters' houses are the only parts of the structures that present much other than a flat exterior curtain wall. (And what's up with two kitchens?) These are going to wind up looking like big brick warehouses with a tiny bit of gothic trim -- and the Canal Street elevation of the north college barely has even that. The gable ends are all too wide, and the roof pitches often too shallow (it would be great if RAMSA could carry off a Goodhue-style low gable, but they just can't, poor dears). Please, please, just go to Library Walk, and look at the way that Rogers disguises the width of his buildings, filling the outer corners with bay windows, chimney stacks, etc. And don't justify hack gothic by pointing to some of Rogers' lousy work in the residential wings in Berkeley College -- with the exception of the fab masters house and dining hall/common room (and a few details here and there), Berkeley is Yale neo-gothic at its least good.

    Then there are the towers. If you're going to site towers at the end of street vistas (a nice touch, I have to allow) your towers have to be worth looking at. The faux-Bingham tower in the North College is a nice try, but not good enough. And the others are characterless -- definitely unworthy of their long vistas.

    RAMSA, please give your very nice suggested floorplans to an architect who can produce buildings with character. You can even job it out quietly so that you all still get credit. But the proposals so far are unworthy of Yale.

  • two kitchens

    I suspect that there are two kitchens in the masters' houses so that food for public entertainments in the masters' houses -- the weekly teas, receptions, parties, etc. -- can be prepped without usurping the family kitchen and the family's meals there.

    That's my best estimate, at any rate.

  • @ 65

    To the desolate 65:

    1. You want less desolation. A theater would be a great way to liven up the approach to College Hill. And as for its style -- well, look at this thread; you could get neo-Gothic again, for architectural continuity and context (which you advocate, but some above oppose). Or you could get something contemporary and exciting.

    I would think the contemporary option would more likely address your desolation concern. The neo-Gothic option would address your continuity concern. I'm not saying you can't have it both ways; but it seems unlikely that one design could achieve both ends. If one design did, it would be a miraculously contemporary reinterpretation of collegiate Gothic.

    2. I think you are both underestimating and overestimating the street-enlivening impact that the colleges, and their 800 total residents, will have. On the one hand, a little theater at the corner is not going to wall these colleges off from Science Hill. Their impact will be felt on Prospect, which they front, regardless.

    This said, the colleges are somewhat self-contained, and they have moats. So the colleges may not liven up every foot of street frontage the way you seem to hope they will.

    A theater would break things up a bit, both architecturally and functionally; and I think the corner is a perfect place for it.

    3. If you're referring to the current SOM buildings, I don't think any decision has been made as to what will replace them. Or at least, to my knowledge, no decision has been publicized. So what you advocate, on the one hand, and locating the theater on the corner, on the other, are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    4. In saying that the architecture of Mudd Library will complement the design of the new colleges, are you confusing architecture with materials? Mudd seems extremely squat and non-Gothic.

  • what is character?

    To 66: Your points about curtain walls, gable ends, and roof pitches are fairly clear.

    But as to the towers: Could you please define more carefully what you mean by "character"?

    At the moment it seems to be some ingredient that is missing, and that you want, but that you are unwilling to describe.

  • "comfortable and pleasing"

    Could the contemporary-architecture advocates on this thread please point to specific examples of successful *residential* architecture by the architects they advocate?

    To be pointed to deconstructivist Zaha Hadid as someone who will build a residential complex that is "comfortable and pleasing" is laughable. First, I cannot find anything residential that she has designed. So could someone please point us to an example, if it exists? Second, some of her buildings look as though they are going to fall down. Again, they are theoretical constructs, not pleasant spaces to live in.

    The link for Thomas Mayne above is to an academic building at Cooper Union in Manhattan. It's not a residential building, and it's built for a school that is necessarily at the cutting edge of contemporary design. Speaking of cutting, its facade looks as though it has been violently ripped apart. That's a neat trick for the hip and active Lower East Side; it's not a neat trick for New Haven, where one wants to project safety and security.

    Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe is a beautiful building, but the last time I visited, the much-ballyhooed brises soleil, each dependent on a little motor, weren't working. Do they work now? And furthermore, would undergraduates want to live in a building that architecturally atomizes them into hundreds of tiny, identical machines?

    The link to Barcelona architecture has many, many images, of which the first is a work by Mies van der Rohe. Who is not available for this commission.

    So rather than point to famous examples of modern architecture over the past 50 years, could the anti-Stern camp please point to something current and residential?

    At the moment, the anti-Stern camp is freely attacking something very specific. Then they make broad assertions that contemporary architects have designed residential works that are comfortable and pleasing.

    Let's see what they're referring to. Let's debate their alternatives -- perhaps some of the recent residential work in Manhattan? -- on their merits.

    Specific examples, please?

  • Anonymous

    To #68:

    Thank you for your observations. I am beginning to see that if the north college has to extend to Canal Street, the Mudd Library is perhaps too large of a structure to spare.

    As to the corner of Prospect and Sachem, I still think it is a mistake not to extend the north college to this corner with a main entrance facing Science Hill. In order to enliven Science Hill, any new, multiple-use facility should be built on the current site of SOM, whether it is a theatre and cafe or a gym and cafe. The problem with that area has always been all the vacant area at the foot of Science Hill. Perhaps some other multiple-use facility could be built on this vacant area, but there is always the risk of ruining the view of Hillhouse Avenue or Science Hill. The Luce Center already partially wrecked the view of Hillhouse Avenue, so great care has to be taken not to repeat this.

    I think the focus of this project has to be to enliven Prospect and Sachem, which have always been two of the most--sorry to use the word again-- desolate streets on campus, particularly at night.

    Let's just hope Yale gets this right.

  • greatlakes

    To post #70 I would reply that it hardly takes a brain surgeon to design a habitable bedroom with a window or two and a bathroom down the hall. Throw in a courtyard and a dining hall to boot.

    Traditionalist James Gamble Rogers had designed precious few residential spaces before Yale gave the whole campus to him to create sui generis. I would assume #70 thinks he did an adequate job.

    Meanwhile Frank Gehry actually completed quite a few houses before he went into his metal fish, scaley, swoopy phase.

    Are we to conclude then that Gehry is ipso facto a better designer of residential spaces?

    I don't know about you, but the top floor conference room, rooftop terrace, and cafeteria of the Institute of the Arab World in Paris are far more poetic and memorable than some of the drabber, darker Rogers' spaces. And yes it is true that the oculi in the building are so extraordinarily popular and mesmerizing that they have been degraded by constant use by tourists demanding to experience them.

    Oh well, much better to have a forgettable, clunky, gothic ripoff not in danger of attracting too much attention.

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